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28th ECAB trains for water survival

By Capt. Travis Mueller | 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade | Oct. 21, 2019


SOMERSET, Pa. – Thirty-seven Soldiers with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade trained for water evacuations during an exercise in a swimming pool Oct. 19-20.

The event, also known as Shallow Water Egress Training or dunker training, built 28th ECAB crew members' skills in evacuating a helicopter submerged in water. They focused on proper use of an underwater breathing apparatus, water survival techniques and escaping a crew member's seat while underwater.

One of the participants, Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Shaw, crew chief with Charlie Company, 1-230th Cavalry Regiment, 28th ECAB, said the training helped him gain more confidence in his ability to survive a water emergency.

"It's a good familiarization for if we have an emergency over water," said Shaw. "I'm a pretty strong swimmer, but even if you are a strong swimmer, you can find out where your weaknesses are, and if you are a weak swimmer, you can find new strengths. This definitely gives you a 'heads-up' and makes you more aware of your weaknesses and your strengths to be able to get out of the aircraft."

During the main exercise at the pool at Somerset Area High School, crew members were strapped in a SWET chair, which replicated a crew member's seat in a helicopter. Instructors then pushed the SWET chair into the pool. The crew members demonstrated their proficiency by releasing themselves from their seats and swimming out of the chair, simulating exiting a submerged helicopter.

The training was led by military aviation standardization trainers and water instructors with the Pennsylvania Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team.

"The unique relationship with our PA-HART civilians allows the military to run dunker training with volunteer water instructors as well as dive masters that prepares our crews for their combat mission," said Lt. Col. Michael Girvin, director of the training event.

PA-HART was established in 2006 and is a partnership between the Pennsylvania National Guard, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and certified civilian rescue technicians. It is an aerial search and rescue team, able to assist citizens during disasters.

Since 2006, the program has grown to add dunker training for both civilian and military members to ensure safety to all crews that fly over water.